Right now, the data from the U.S. Census Bureau are about to become obsolete; a new report is expected at the end of this month. It will provide information for 2008. What we have currently is information for 2007, and it’s the best we have. I haven’t read the entire report, but I have looked at a few pertinent pages. The Report is called “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States—2007.” You can find it online.
Number of Uninsured
It shows that in 2007, 45.657 million people in the U.S. were uninsured; rounded off, 46 million. Soon we will be able to see whether the number of uninsured has increased as a result of the recession. Which is likely.
Sometimes that 46 million has been used to refer to uninsured “Americans,” however. That is not accurate if by “Americans” you mean “citizens,” not just the people who live here. To arrive at the number of “American citizens” without health insurance, you must subtract 9.737 million people who are “not citizens” (nearly 10 million). There are 35.92 million citizens, rounded off, 36 million.
It matters to many that taxpayer money not be used for anyone other than citizens, which is what supposedly underlies this preoccupation with accuracy. But the critics ought to know that there is no proposed health reform bill in Congress that includes non-citizens. None.
Sometimes critics of the reform have taken their own liberties with the Census data, like calling people in the “not citizens” category “illegal aliens.” That’s absurd. Plenty of people who are not citizens live in this country legally.
Profile of Uninsured
In the U.S., most uninsured people live in the South; they live in households with less than $50,000 a year in income; 26.8 million of them worked during 2007; 21 million of those worked full-time.
Not all uninsured people are poor, or old, or under age 18. The two largest groups are those aged 25 to 34 and those aged 45 to 64. Some uninsured people live in households with higher than average income, not just above $50,000, but above $75,000.
Why is that? Perhaps the Census explains why, but I didn't find the explanation there. What is obvious though, if you think about it, is that that statistic alone—a household income of $75,000 or more—doesn’t reveal much. It doesn't tell you how many people live in those households; or how many wage earners live there; or how many dependents; or how much debt the household owes. Without more information it isn't clear whether such persons could afford health insurance. It is probable, however, that some of the uninsured are healthy, young, highly paid workers who could afford insurance, but prefer not to pay for it and to pocket the extra earnings instead. They could just pay for care if and when they need it. That practice is a legal option in many states. That would change, by the way, with House reform bill HR 3200, which requires everyone to purchase health insurance; one of the goals of the reform is universal coverage.